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More great effects, shame about the acting

THE MOST recent instalment of the Star Wars saga brings a bubbly mix of cool spaceships, stunning cityscapes, lightning action, questionable plot developments, vapid dialogue, and a host of aliens with goofy heads. In other words, it's a lot like the first three.
That doesn't mean that everyone will like Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. For followers of George Lucas' now five-part saga, it fills in some details on past films, drops some subtle (and not so subtle) hints of what to expect in Episode III, and provides the familiar part-real, part-computer, too-fast action sequences the franchise is famous for.
But if you have never heard of Anakin Skywalker, or if you have to ask who the little green guy is - like one viewer behind me - then you will probably not enjoy the movie.


MY, Anakin, how you've grown.
photo: Courtesy of Tatrafilm

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Running time: 142 min
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Frank Oz
Directed by: George Lucas
Rating: 7 out of 10 for Star Wars fans, 4 out of 10 for non-fans

THE MOST recent instalment of the Star Wars saga brings a bubbly mix of cool spaceships, stunning cityscapes, lightning action, questionable plot developments, vapid dialogue, and a host of aliens with goofy heads. In other words, it's a lot like the first three.

That doesn't mean that everyone will like Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. For followers of George Lucas' now five-part saga, it fills in some details on past films, drops some subtle (and not so subtle) hints of what to expect in Episode III, and provides the familiar part-real, part-computer, too-fast action sequences the franchise is famous for.

But if you have never heard of Anakin Skywalker, or if you have to ask who the little green guy is - like one viewer behind me - then you will probably not enjoy the movie.

On the plus side, Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobee is much sharper, keener and more, well, Jedi in Clones than he was in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999's disappointing revival of the series.

Much-esteemed Jedi master Samuel L. Jackson fights a bit in this one and we get to see just why Yoda is so venerated.

Stunningly detailed views of impossible spaces and improbable landscapes also refreshingly draw the viewer away from the tedious dialogue and flat acting.

Ten years on from Menace, we learn that future Dark Lord Anakin Skywalker, (Hayden Christensen) has grown.

In fact, we learn it from his Jedi mentor Obi-Wan, from Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo (Natalie Portman, also the queen from Episode One who was so sweet on little Anakin), from his dying mother, from the Chancellor of the Republic, and again from the senator, who is allegedly falling in love with him, though it is difficult to tell from her performance.

Anakin has indeed grown, and his first solo Jedi mission, conveniently enough, is to escort Padmé back to her home planet following a pair of foiled assassination attempts in the galactic capital.

While his mentor Obi-Wan is tracking down the plotters, Anakin has plenty of time to whine about the Jedi leadership, entertain delusions of grandeur, flash his light-sabre around, and inevitably fall for the girl, who seems to enjoy bossing him around.

This, plus some really good fighting, gives a few hints but doesn't explain how the young Anakin Skywalker could have been tempted to the menacing Dark Side, setting up the great father-son battle of 1977's Star Wars, meaning the heart of the story will have to wait for Episode III.

Flashy computer graphics again dominate Clones, as they did with Menace, but with fewer of the irrelevant technical displays of the previous film.

There is nothing like the pointless underwater foray of Menace, and useless digital headache Jar-Jar Binks makes a thankfully brief appearance.

Cities stretch beyond what physics will permit, creating rooms of unlikely shape with unlikely windows, and landscapes are equally fantastic.

For all the jaw-dropping graphics, however, Clones misses the pioneer feeling of the original trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983), which wowed audiences with its innovation; in comparison, today's exactingly calculated effects disappoint in their detail.

While filling in some background on future characters and plot items from what are now being called Episodes IV, V, and VI, the plot remains undeveloped, there are still plenty of unanswered questions and despite the film's title, the mysterious Clone Army doesn't really attack.

Most of Clones' weaknesses, however, are common for the series, and Episode II is a good night out that offers over two hours of mindless eye-popping epic fun, just like the first three.

But try to see it on the biggest screen possible, don't worry about language - some copies are titled in Czech, some are dubbed in Slovak - the dialogue doesn't matter, and don't expect uninitiated friends to start loving the series, at least not yet.

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